Our Lead Curator Phin Jennings looks at three exhibitions taking place in London throughout the month of June.
By Phin Jennings | 31 May 2022
27 MAY – 2 JUL
“Even though their roots traverse memories and myths, the objects belong to the future,” reads Zazie Stevens’ text accompanying May Hands’ solo exhibition at Peckham’s Boss & Baum. The small gallery space is filled with materially eclectic assemblages; fragments of crocheted fabric, ceramic starfish and lengths of string curled into ammonites are among the materials used by Hands. The wall-based works involve three dimensional objects affixed to loosely woven hessian substrates stretched like canvases. They feel like multimedia postcards from an anonymous and unspoilt seaside destination; perhaps this is what Stevens means when she writes about memories.
But I think the future is more inspiring to keep in mind when visiting this exhibition. The objects that Hands has chosen to display – which range in colour from coral pink to ocean-washed blue – feel inherently peaceful. Perhaps it is the seaside memories or the tactile processes of weaving and beachcombing that they bring to mind. The exhibition’s text describes Hands’ practice as a “sanctuary from capitalism and hyper-consumerism.” With this in mind, the show feels like a form of respite for the here-and-now and a possible blueprint for the future, not limited to memories and nostalgia.
2 – 8 JUN
Hands’ work is also on show in this group exhibition curated by Elaine Tam and Arthus Gouillart, which promises to address “the nature of idyll and exquisite pleasures that art history has made familiar.” In keeping with the theme of the artist’s solo exhibition, Wish Lush looks at the natural world through a contemporary, rather than a nostalgic, lens.
Ranald Macdonald’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me depicts a blurrily-rendered frolicking puppy, Connor Murgatroyd’s Still Life Orange is a vase of flowers that look like cigarette-smoking mouths. Both works have a vernacular feel about them. But the exhibition isn’t only interested in delighting in plants and creatures; it contextualises artworks like these in a time of climate emergency, drawing our attention to their ephemeral beauty.
27 MAY – 2 JUL
I first saw Kira Freije’s work at A.P.T gallery in Deptford. Part of Re-enchanted Matter, a group exhibition curated by Hot Desque, two of her burnished metal humanoid sculptures were posed in the gallery’s darkened back room. Their scaffold-like bodies and blank faces felt distinctly un-human.
I expected a similar scene at the artist’s first solo exhibition with The Approach, a gallery located above a Bethnal Green pub. I was surprised to see Freije’s characters beginning to look more relatable, in their actions if not in their looks. A work called fireworks involves a couple wearing loose cotton clothing standing arm in arm, facing the gallery’s window with their backs to the viewer. But the artworks are still slightly unsettling. The blank stares are the same and the figures are lit by strange, bulbous lamps affixed to the walls. Their robotic physical makeup and creepy surroundings make their display of affection all the more uniquely uncanny. This contradiction is parallel to the one that the exhibition’s text tells us that Freije evokes in her work: “even under the constant and imminent threat of annihilation and apocalypse, we seek love and companionship above all”.